Moscow has accused Kiev of placing political interests above humanity, adding that it is confident it made the right decision to order a convoy with Russian humanitarian aid to proceed to the conflict zone without waiting for further Ukrainian permission.
All the trucks in the Russian aid convoy have arrived in Lugansk and are currently being unloaded, the city administration confirmed to the media.
Later, a specially formed commission will distribute essential supplies of food, medicine and water among the population. Part of the Russian humanitarian aid may be send to the neighboring Donetsk region, which has also been heavily hit by the ongoing violence.
Moscow has accused Kiev of deliberately holding up the delivery of Russian humanitarian aid to the Donetsk and Lugansk regions in eastern Ukraine, according to the statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry.
“Our convoy with humanitarian aid is starting to move in the direction of Lugansk. We are of course ready for it to be accompanied by Red Cross representatives and for their participation in the aid’s distribution.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was not escorting the convoy.
“That’s because of the problems with security,” Galina Balzamova of the ICRC told RT. “Lugansk was shelled all night long. We believe we did not get sufficient guarantees of safety from all the parties to the conflict to start escorting the convoy.”
The head of the Russian Red Cross, Raisa Lukutsova, said the organization supported the decision to get the humanitarian convoy moving.
“The fact that the humanitarian mission has started – this has probably been the right decision,” Lukutsova said. “For how long do we have to put up with this mockery? They put forward one demand after another. All of them unrealistic.”
She added the Russian Red Cross was ready to escort the humanitarian convoy and appealed to the ICRC for permission to do so.
ICRC, meanwhile, confirms that people in areas affected by the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine are in “urgent need for essentials like food and medical supplies.”
The crisis is particularly acute in Lugansk, where people have gone for weeks without water and electricity and have to queue every day for whatever scarce food supplies are brought to the city.
Ukraine’s intelligence (SBU) chief, Valentyn Nalivaychenko, has described the convoy crossing the Russian border as a “direct invasion.”
“We call it a direct invasion,” Nalivaichenko told journalists. “Under the cynical cover of the Red Cross these are military vehicles with documents to cover them up.”
Kiev’s stance was echoed by the EU, who labeled Moscow’s decision to order the convoy to go ahead without Kiev’s consent “a clear violation of the Ukrainian border.”
“This also goes counter to the previous arrangements reached between Ukraine, Russia and the ICRC. We urge Russia to reverse its decision,” said Sebastien Brabant, spokesman for the EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, as cited by Reuters.
The US accused Russia of “a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and called on Moscow to withdraw its convoy.
“Russia must remove its vehicles and its personnel from the territory of Ukraine immediately. Failure to do so will result in additional costs and isolation,” Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, told a briefing, Reuters reported.
NATO has also joined the chorus of condemnation, with the alliance’s chief, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, saying in a statement that the decision to send the aid convoy into Ukraine without Kiev’s consent “can only deepen the crisis in the region, which Russia itself has created and has continued to fuel.”
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry accused Moscow of “smuggling humanitarian aid to Ukraine” and said it had to allow the convoy to pass.
“To avoid provocations we have given all the necessary orders to let the convoy pass safely,” the ministry’s statement says.
In response to criticism voiced by Kiev officials over the Russian decision to give the aid convoy a green light and send it to people in conflict-hit areas who need water, food and medicine, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it has always acted within the framework of international law.
“We are acting in full compliance with the norms of international humanitarian law. We can no longer and will not accept the distress of residents living in the southeastern Ukraine,” said Sergey Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy Foreign Minister, its press service cites.
Ukraine agreed to let the convoy pass during an August 20 phone call between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers. That gave a start to customs procedures for checking and registering the contents of the trucks comprising the convoy.
The next day the process was stopped by Ukraine, citing intensified shelling of Lugansk.
“It was Kiev – apparently backed by Western sponsors – have been doing everything in the past several days to wreck a crucially important humanitarian action,” Ryabkov said.
Kiev authorities were “making up” countless bureaucratic hurdles, “the crossing of which appeared to be more difficult than for our trucks to travel down the road damaged by Ukrainian shelling,” the official added.
In Moscow’s view, Kiev authorities were deliberately trying to postpone the delivery of Russian aid. They attempted to buy time and finish the military operation oppressing “their own people” in the area “where Russian humanitarian aid is being distributed.” However, Ryabkov added, they failed to do so.
“We are confident that we are right. And we accuse Kiev and countries that support it that over and over again they have been placing their political – as a matter of fact anti-Russian – interests above established norms of humanism and compassion,” Ryabkov said.
The convoy of 280 Kamaz trucks carrying food, medicines and other essentials for Lugansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine left the Moscow region on August 12.
It was stuck at the border with Ukraine for more than a week.